Friday, May 9, 2014

Object Lesson on Forgiveness

I have mentioned that we are in the process of adopting a daughter (or daughters) through the foster care system. I know I keep saying that I will write about it, but honestly right now I am in such emotional upheaval about it that I can't write it about it quite yet. As things become more certain I promise I will share our experiences. As we are going through the process I have been volunteering my time at a local christian, residential center for teenage girls in need. Most of these girls are from at-risk homes where they have been placed by the state in treatment as a sentence, are in the foster care system and no longer welcome in a foster home, some are teenage mothers with their own child in foster care and treatment is part of their program to get their child back, placed by parents that no longer how to work with their behaviors, and/or substance abuse, prostitution, and other trauma. I have to say that the work has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. Some ladies from my church go, make these teen girls dinner, do a short devotional as we eat dessert, and then do a fun activity: paint nails, play board games, decorate cards, knit,etc. If you are interested in helping at-risk children all most all cities have a residential home and I am sure would except volunteers just to spend time building relationships with them. 

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of doing the devotional. Earlier that week two of the girls got baptized. Despite that it was the day of their baptism they were holding on to past grievances, feeling angry at one another, and just in a real negative place interpersonally. I felt so sad that here was a day where they were symbolically putting to death their old self and being reborn and they were holding on to past hurts. Most of these girls had a lot of reasons to be angry at people in their life. However, that anger and resentment were only holding them back. I knew then I wanted to teach on forgiveness.

I started by reading them 2 Cor. 5:17-19:

 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God,who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." 

So what does reconciliation even mean. According to the dictionary it means to reestablish a close relationship and to settle and resolve. How do we show the ministry of reconciliation? By forgiveness and grace. Forgiveness is to excuse for a fault or offense. It is to pardon them by renouncing anger and resentment. Grace, on the other hand, is to give kindness or favor even when a person doesn't deserve or earn it. I then read Ephesians 4:31-32:

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Now on to the object lesson: 

Materials you need is a class of water and effervescent vitamin tablets (like airborne). Cut tablets into fourths.  I then asked the girls to think of someone they needed to forgive. Now these girls come from trauma, so I told them to think hard and only think of someone they are able to forgive at this moment in their life. If the hurt is too big and they think they can't forgive that person that is okay. Now we talked about how eventually they need to forgive so it doesn't hurt or have power of them, but do what they are emotionally capable of. Think of a hurt they can forgive. We talked about grace and forgiving even if they don't deserve it. Keep highlighting that forgiveness heals them and doesn't absolve the other persons behavior.
Once they have the person they are going to forgive they put the tablet in the water. At this time they can silently ask God to help them forgive the person they were thinking of. As the bubbles come off the tables imagine the hurt feelings going to God. 
The tablets take awhile to dissolve.  Use this illustration to talk about sometimes forgiveness takes awhile. It can be a long process to forgive. Lastly, once the water changes color we discussed how even though we forgave it doesn't mean the hurt didn't happen or affect our lives. It doesn't excuse the behavior but it allows God to change the pain and hurt into something else. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

DYI Weighted Stuff Animal

When you have a child that has Sensory Processing Disorder you hear a lot about the use of weighted blankets. Children (any age really) that struggle with ADHD, SPD, trauma, anxiety, depression, Autism Spectrum, and other disorder can benefit from the deep proprioceptive pressure given by a weighted item. The items facilitate a calming & centering  feeling. Sometimes the weighted items are in a vest, lap pad, and most commonly a blanket. Parents swear by them and find weighted blankets are one of the only ways to get their child to sleep through the night (a common problem with these kiddos). My child (like many SPD children) has trouble regulating his temperature. He hates to have clothes on, never mind blankets. However, I wanted to see if the use of a weighted item would help him. I had heard about weighted stuffed animals and started looking into buying one. Like most therapy tools they can be spendy. Then it dawned on me that adapting a stuffed animal he already had would be easy and almost free. I personally chose a stuffed animal that had a longer/flatter body so that it could sit across his laps, almost like a lap pad...trying to kill two weighted birds with one stone.

A stuffed animal we had around the house. I think "A" bought this for "B" for Xmas 2 years ago from ToysRUs           Step one: Open a seam
Step two: fill it with rice, beans, popcorn kernels, fish tank rocks, etc. Should be weight of about 5% or your child's weight.
"B" ways about 53 lbs so our stuffed animal is about 2 -3 pounds

Step three: Hand sew it back up on the seam. I am not a great  and I  could did it. I told "B" he had surgery.

It really is that easy!
Look at that my happy boy!
Using weight stuffed animal as a lap pad. He looks pretty calm to me.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Poetry Journal

Back when I taught 5th grade, poetry was used frequently in our classroom. We used poetry as a way for students to work on their fluency. Students would answer comprehension questions, act out the poems with peers, or draw imagery from it daily. When I home-schooled "A" for a short while I knew I wanted to give him the same exposure, but at a primary level. At Just 4 Teachers I found what I was looking for, a poetry journal where kinder kids can highlight sight words, work on their reading, and do an art project for each poem. 

Now that "A" is older and no longer home-schooled I still wanted to introduce him to amazing poetry. We still work in the journal but we do more comprehension type questions rather than look for sight words. I also pick harder poems for him to read. 
 Here is his most current page for All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Frances Alexander
I am loving this artwork. We used our Easter colored egg shells as a mosaic for the flowers.
This page is for the poem At the Seaside by Robert Louis Stevenson. The sandcastle is made on sandpaper.
 Primary Page (see highlighted sight words): My Robot Does My Homework by Kenn Nesbitt 
(robot made with markers, aluminum foil & buttons)
 Primary Page: Thanksgiving (great way to tie in seasonal poems). 
Art made with lunch sack & construction paper. 
 1492 Poem with a color pencil drawing he made from step-by-step instructions
 Primary Page: Another seasonal/holiday poem called Trick or Treat. 
He made a trick-or-treat house from his leftover trick-or-treat candy loot.
 Primary Page:  Poem titled I Talk With The Moon with and handprint painted owl
 Primary Page: Scarecrow poem with cut construction paper art
 Primary Page: Leaves poem with abstract marker art
First one we ever did:  Poem is called Harvest time with apple print art. 

Check out the link above because she has the cover and some of the primary poems (like Harvest Time above) available as a free printable to get you started if you have younger kids. For older kids just search websites for popular kid poems. I will make sure to show you if we do any cool ones in the future.To read more about the importance of reading poetry to your child and tips to get started I recommend this quick article titled Celebrating Poetry, from PBS.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shaving Cream Painting

Shaving cream "paint" has been one of my standard sensory activities for the last five years. Probably the reason I love it so much is because it so inexpensive to make. Get the white foamy shaving cream (which also happens to be the cheapest-WIN). Then add food dye. In the past, we usually paint on cookie sheets although you could certainly do it in the bath tub if you wanted to. 

Then I saw the great idea from Happy Hooligans to use the paint outside on sliding glass windows. I love how you can use something a hundred times but someone will use it completely different and it brings a whole new dimension to it. 

The boys then decided that they should paint "B's" car. They have their own ideas on how the paint should be used. Which lead me to think of a car wash. Even though they were cleaning they were having a blast, a getting awesome sensory play in at the same time. 

Hey while they are cleaning out there why not clean the windows as well. They didn't even see it as a chore. Bonus for me!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Freedom to Fly

So I hate to admit it but I have a little (or a lot depending on who you ask) problem of wanting to control things. I like predictability, routine, structure. Being a parent to two boys can make that a challenge, because boys are anything but predictable! I hate to say that often I get in their way of being kids. Take for example the other day as we sat to eat dinner the boys noticed a blue jay out our dining room window. 
We don't see a ton of blue jays in Anchorage. It was a wonderful reminder that spring was surely here. Spring:-what Alaskans long for as we wait for the last bit of seven months of snow to give us a brief reprieve. Well eating dinner was no longer a priorit, there was a bird to play with! "B" was especially adamant that he needed to go get that bird. Mind you he had not eaten anything and was half naked, but this was a matter of emergency. "A" was also brimming with excitement but was stifling it so he could appear to be the older, more mature child. The whole time I of course am being sensible, smart, structured....CONTROLLING. 

"You need to eat your dinner."- "You don't have clothes on."- "You will get cold."- "It is dirty."- "It is too late to go out and play."-"Leave the bird alone."- "It's not like you are going to catch it." blah blah blah...
Luckily, this is ONE time as a mom where I caught myself. I reflected on how it felt to chase birds when I was a child. I remember the joy and exhilaration knowing I couldn't catch them, but trying none-the-less. I wanted to fly just like them. As a child I certainly had the energy and audacity to fly, if God had just given me wings. Why was I stifling that experience for my boys? I realize how much I was clipping their wings as I held them back from these moments of wonder and exploration. Would the 5 minutes away from dinner running around in the cold yard do any damage in the long run? No, but not allowing them the "freedom to fly"  definitely would.
Spring is a time of renewal and rejuvenation. Just what we as a family need from time-to-time.
To remind myself of this moment and to try to be more conscious of letting my boys be kids I had them make some bird treats. Invite  the birds to come and next time my kids will be ready to play with them.
Perfect activity as we celebrate Earth Day. 
Take toilet paper tubes and spread with peanut butter. Make sure to punch holes first!
Roll in bird seed or cracked corn. I found a small bag for about $2.50 at Fred Meyers in the pet area.
We also found old bird houses we had painted about a year ago and hung those as well. They were found at Michaels in the $1 bin. I didn't treat it for the weather, which in hindsight I probably should have. 
So we are ready for the birds and I have  reminder out my dining room window that I want children that desire to fly, not be tethered down by the trappings of this life. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sea Life Sensory Bin

Sensory bins have always been a favorite activity for me to put together. B has always had a propensity of putting inappropriate things in his mouth, so it has been a while since I made one. As he gets older and has more tools to help (thank goodness for chewelry) I thought I have another go-around with sensory bins. 

Now I know we are quickly approaching Easter. I had all these creative ideas flowing of an Easter theme, Holy Week theme, or other Spring ideas. However, B just kept going back to the shark toy. I am trying to fight my natural instincts to take over and instead have more kid-directed play/craft time, so a sea life sensory bin it is.

We started out with little brown rocks that go into fish tanks. We added shells, agate type rocks, green play tree that look sorta like seaweed (well at least to me), and whatever sea animals I had on hand. Don't forget the sharks!!!
I also found a boat with  little guy (in case we want to play JAWS), a fishing pole game found at the $3 bin at Target, and  a whale sponge. Wringing out soaked sponges is not only fun sensory play but helps strength hands and forearms which promotes fine motor skills.

Next I added water dyed with blue food coloring. Another day B wanted me to try green water. Do a mixture if you want. Then just let them play. He has played with this numerous days for at least 20 min. each.

This isn't the only beach theme sensory bin I have done. To see a more traditional sand sensory bin without water go here. Also if your family loves sharks I have a great game to work on learning ABCs or sight words here. Lastly, for your budding scientists out there we did a closer look and activity with shells here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Calm Down Basket

Making calm down baskets have been on my bucket list for years. Nothing like having a homestudy being done at your home, where your parenting techniques will be under a microscope, to light a fire under me. Part of the reason I held off for so long is because I thought it would cost a lot to get everything together or too difficult to make a calm down jar (something that I felt just HAD to go with it). Yeah, I was so wrong on both counts.

If you don't know what a calm down basket is let me enlighten you. It is a basket of items your child can use tools to help self soothe and/or self-regulate their feelings. Calm down baskets are NOT to be used as punishments. I actually have them in a different area of my house than our time-out (or in) chairs. I personally made a basket for each of my boys because some times I need them to calm down at the same time, say when sibling emotions are running high. Also with the four year age difference I needed to think about gearing certain items to appropriate age/maturity (mainly books). I ask the boys to go calm down when they are starting to get irritable and either a meltdown or fight will break out, overly-hyper and I can tell an accident will occur or any times they are being over-emotional. The trick to the success is finding times to implement it BEFORE a choice has been made that would result in a punishment. They go shake the glitter calm down jar (acts as a timer and object lesson) and then they work in the baskets until THEY feel calm. It is meant to be self-regulated where they can learn when they need to calm down and also when they can come out. Self regulation is a life skill for all kids, but for SPD (sensory processing disorder) children it is especially important. Of course, as a mom we need to teach them how to do this. You may need to give a few reminders. Don't forget to model!!! When they are in calm down I try to do something calming too: read a Psalms, drink some tea, take deep breaths, journal, and sometimes I even color.

Here is what I included in our calm down basket. Keep in mind almost ALL items I had around the house or got for a couple dollars at Target. I so wish we had a Dollar Tree up here in Anchorage. I would check there first. The goal is to find items that are calming, deal with kiddo emotions, and think about letting the children use all of their senses (great for all kiddos and especially ones with SPD).

Sensory Items: teething/oral tools, massager, pinwheel, bubbles (that don't spill), Walbarger Brushing Tool (only for kiddo with SPD), velcro, I Can Calm Myself ABC Cards from Training Happy Hearts, and some natural components (smooth rocks to rub or shells to listen to).
Lacing Cards, squishy toys that have different textures, weight, and lights, stress balls, and small stuffed animals for comfort. The elephant is a baby toy but we like it because it makes a crinkly sound and B can chew on the feet.
Picture books on emotions, manners, and behaviors, a picture book of the boys doing positive things, a prayer book, children's bible, and a compilation book of poetry for children.
Each basket has an accordion file. In it is some laminated mazes, search and finds, and code breakers for A, For A I also add special paper airplane folding paper and mandalas to color (which is used in Tibetan culture for gaining wisdom, compassion, and healing through positive energy).  I also added a white erase marker and some crayons in the file.
A stretching printout (image from Bambinis) and Angry Bird Cool Down Strategies from The Home Teacher( (this unit she created is  EXCELLENT)
Of course it would not be complete without the much loved glitter calm down jars.These are so easy to make. Get glitter glue (think Elmer's glue size) and put about half of it in a mason jar. Then add HOT water (almost boiling). Stir until all the glue dissolves (takes a couple minutes). Next hot glue the lid on. Wait to cool and then you are done! Some use these as a timer to get out of the calm down area, but my jars take about 20 minutes to settle. The object lesson  is just like we feel all jumbled when we are out of control (have kiddo shake the jar-which reliefs stress and show the glitter whirl about) we can calm down and feel relaxed when we take time to quiet our body (set jar down and watch glitter settle on bottom). 

What do you or would you add to your calm down basket? I am planning on a small crank music box and making a lavender rice pillow to add in more smell and audio. Love to hear other ideas.